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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Bristol West environmentally themed hustings at the watershed featuring Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Green Candidate.  Unedited sorry that means this stream lasts for two hours.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/6384720

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/6386016

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Deny

Climate change deniers are resurgent with polls now showing that only a minority of the population think that man made climate change is taking place.

see http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/2446

This is a mixture of people wanting to believe that its all okay and stories being run that appear to discredit the scientific evidence.  Then there is the reaction from people as soon as they see a snowflake they say “Well that global warming is rubbish”, unable to understand the difference between weather (short term) and climate change (long term).   Although some would say that colder winters are an effect of climate change as it leads to a weaker gulf stream.

In reality the issues raised are not significant in themselves compared to the overwhelming level of data which points to rapid temperature increases (when compared to normal and historic patterns of warming and cooling).

Particularly strange is the view that since the climate is always on the change (we are still moving out of an ice-age) that the process is natural. The idea that the climate is a stable system which never changes is fanciful and not held as a view by any scientists anyway.  What we are seeing is an unprecedented warming in a short space of time.  It also needs to be remembered that natural climate change, even though it is over a longer period has dramatic effects.  Humanity was only started to spread around the globe due to the warming thousands of years ago and climate change has always driven patterns of migration.

That the Himalayan ice is melting a bit slower than predicted just means the models need to be updated.  This is what scientists do all the time when new information becomes available.

If the deniers are right then the shift to renewables and a more sustainable use of resources is still sensible and logical.  Fossil fuels are finite and we need to develop the new technologies which allow us to plan for a post oil age.  If they are wrong not to act now would be catastrophic.

I choose safety first and energy diversification over the risk of global extinction.

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sinkingplanetThanks to the Bristol Festival of Ideas I have actually been to an optimistic meeting about climate change.

Climate change is undoubtedly the most significant (although not the only) environmental crisis facing humanity. That it is self inflicted adds to the irony but also the sense of guilt and responsibility. As a species we are consuming ourselves to destruction with little thought for those we share this planet for or the generations to come. Our inheritance to our children and the following generations is an environmental and economic disaster.

Maybe we have an almost naive sense that some clever scientist will come along and sort it all out, in the same way that my young son thinks that I can fix anything he breaks.

The science of climate change is well understood although difficult to predict. It is not new either. I remember studying planetary climate change in the mid eighties as part of my degree and the concern that if we did not reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that earth’s atmosphere could become a hot ball of acid rain unable to sustain life. Luckily we are a long way from that scenario but global temperatures and sea levels are rising.

Fatalism

There is almost fatalism about this among some. “It doesn’t matter what we do when China is building so many coal power stations” or “Americans use so much energy and there is no point us doing anything unless they act” are among the excuses used by people not to take any action themselves. (USA and China combined account for 43% of CO2 emissions). Most presentations on what we should do are, frankly, depressing and unlikely to result in the majority acting, massively reduce travel, population control and huge reductions in consumption. The vast majority of citizens are not prepared for the famine after the feast – anyway how many people are able to stick to a diet for any length of time.

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Governments need to act and show leadership. The UK has agreed to an 80% reduction in CO2 emission by 2050 an ambitious target but still probably not enough to reverse the damage being done. The forthcoming summit in Copenhagen is seeking to get an international agreement which can be signed up to by USA, Europe, China, India and the other major polluters while still allowing the 80% of people living in the developing world to have access to more than 20% of its wealth and resources.

Kyoto to Copenhagen

The speaker at the meeting I went to was Graciela Chichilnisky, an economist who never tired of telling us was at the heart of the Kyoto agreement and who has a cunning plan for Copenhagen. Her presentation started with the usual doom and gloom but quickly advanced onto how a carbon trading and caps actually drive carbon emissions down. The sad truth is that the capitalist market is the only international mechanism we have for dealing with this problem. There is no robust international governance and the workers of the world have not united. Her view is that a Kyoto type deal that includes USA and China is not only essential but also possible. She was also promoting a technology which would allow power generation plants to become carbon negative, using the heat generated by the production of electricity to capture and fix carbon.

I know many environmentalists consider that carbon capture is greenwash for the coal industry, and maybe it is, but although Kingsnorth is on hold around the world 3 coal power stations are being opened every week and unless carbon capture can be developed we are going to be in very deep water, literally.

I am interested in views of anyone who has got this far in a long blog; is a green capitalism the only answer halting and reversing climate change? Can carbon capture be developed to reduce the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere in the volumes and timely enough to make a difference?

Links

Bristol Festival of Ideas: http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/

BBC article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8254212.stm

Blog Action Day: www.blogactionday.org

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confession

Carbon offsetting is seen by some as a way for mitigating the damage they do to the environment through activities such as flying. Personally I have never bought the idea, it has always seemed to me as a way that the wealthy (in international terms) can pretend that the damage they are doing can be undone. It reminds me of the confessions I had to make as a child, whatever wrong I had done could be undone by an act of contrition and a few ‘Hail Marys’.  I do realise that offsetting does fund some excellent projects in the developing world but why should we pretend that this undoes the damage we have done?

Chris Hutt (http://greenbristolblog.blogspot.com/) has sent me a fantastic link to a website which fantastically satirises the whole offset idea.  The site is called Cheat Neutral and the address is http://www.cheatneutral.com/

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